A better helmet would not have stopped the internal action in Sidney Crosby’s skull that caused his concussion. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
By Stu Hackel
Last month, we spoke with Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, who has been publicly discussing his concerns about concussions and traumatic brain injuries in hockey. Nearly every time this subject comes up, emails arrive and comments are posted here wondering why the sport does not merely improve the helmet, which should go a long way toward solving the problem.
So it was worth a phone call to Minnesota to discuss that question and some other concussion-related topics in hockey with the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Michael Stuart, that institution’s Vice-Chair of Orthopedic Surgery and the co-director of its Sports Medicine Center. Dr. Stuart is also the Chief Medical Officer of USA Hockey and a hockey dad — he has three sons who have played in the NHL: Mike, who played briefly with the Blues; Mark, with the Bruins and now with the Jets; and Colin, with the Thrashers and Sabres. Colin is currently captain of Buffalo’s Rochester AHL team.
Dr. Stuart is certainly a good person to evaluate the helmet issue, even as manufacturers claim their new designs will help limit concussions. He, along with his colleague at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Aynsley Smith, created the first Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussions in Oct. 2010, to specifically address this rising problem in the sport. They plan a second such summit in the Fall of 2013.
“One of the conclusions of the group, and also the prioritized action items of this summit, was to look at hockey helmets,” Dr. Stuart told Red Light. ”I’m not giving up on them. I think we need to continue to look at materials, designs and novel technologies. But the bottom line is the hockey helmet does what it was designed to do, which is to prevent skull fractures and intracranial bleeding.